When You Should Stop Taking Medications To Prevent An Addiction

April 22, 2019

It seems the older we get, the more medications we take. While some medications may be needed long-term to help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. But there others designed for short-term usage and may be harmful if used for too long. How might you know whether it’s time to stop taking a medication? Experts recommend going over all your medications, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements, with your primary care physician and specialists annually to determine whether dosages need adjusting or whether you can stop some meds altogether. With all the recent headlines on opioid pain medication, it is scary that an addiction can develop quickly. While effective in curbing pain over a short time period, such as after surgery, taking an opioid for more than three months increases addiction risk by 15 times. If you have a chronic condition, such as ongoing back pain, American College of Physicians say it’s best to skip opioids altogether. Instead, talk with your doctor about nondrug treatments, OTC meds, and other prescription drugs that can help. Then consider using an OTC pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and generic) or naproxen (Aleve and generic). And if you’ve been using opioids for weeks or longer, don’t stop suddenly. Your doctor should help you taper off. About 14% of adults rely on prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids, which is especially dangerous for older people who more than double the risk of falls and hip fractures while using them. OTC sleep aid ingredients (diphenhydramine) such as those found in many sleep aids have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive problems and dementia in seniors. If you are using OTC sleep aids for more than a few days in a row, speak to your doctor about getting a referral to a sleep specialist, who may recommend short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy. More than 15 million Americans regularly take an OTC or prescription proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to curb acid reflux and heartburn. While PPI's are designed for short-term use, more than 45% of people who’d been prescribed one kept receiving the medication for more than 15 months. Taking them for a year or longer could lead to uncommon but significant side effects, such as a higher risk of heart attack or dementia. The American Gastroenterological Association advise that those who need a PPI take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. Focus on lifestyle measures, such as losing weight, eating smaller meals, and avoiding items that may cause heartburn, such as spicy or fried food, alcohol, coffee, citrus, and foods that contain a lot of tomatoes. If you’re congested, it’s tempting to reach for an OTC nasal decongestant spray with oxymetazoline, but if you're using it more than 3 days in a row, your body can become dependent on it. First, try an OTC saline and water nasal rinse, which can help flush out mucus and rinse away allergens. If this is ineffective, it’s generally fine to use a nasal decongestant spray for some quick relief, but if possible, use it only at night and for no longer than three days. If you’ve been using a nasal spray decongestant for more than seven days, your doctor may prescribe a short-term dose of an oral or nasal steroid to prevent rebound swelling in your nose once you kick the decongestant habit. Always talk with your doctor about your medications (even over-the-counter, vitamins and supplements) and never stop a drug without your doctor’s okay.

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SOURCE: Consumer Reports

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